Sweet little Maryann was sitting on her very own egg for a couple weeks when I decided to have a look-see. Using heavy winter gloves to protect my hands I carefully reached under her and pulled out her egg. I held a flashlight to the egg to see how it was developing and learned that it had failed to develop, there was no little chick coming out of that egg.
Eggs quit for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are not fertile and never start to develop. Other times there is something wrong that keeps the chick from fully forming. Perhaps mom was a rookie and stayed off the nest too long, or maybe she got up too many times to go to the bathroom or get a snack. Whatever the cause the result of no chick can be upsetting to the poor mother hen.
Maryann was determined to be a mom. She sat and sat and waited for her chick to come. When I realized her egg was never going to hatch I felt bad for her. Luckily I have other chickens so I grabbed a couple eggs that I had just pulled from another coop and set them against her breast knowing she would pull them under her and continue to set.
Chickens are not like other animals. They rarely reject an egg regardless of whose it is or isn’t. If they are in a broody mood any and all eggs are not only welcome they are snatched up and held hostage to be protected with deadly force if necessary. Many chickens never do go broody, they lay an egg and then go back to chasing bugs and scratching in the yard. But if they do go broody, look out! A broody little hen can make the fiercest raptor look like a harmless chick. They take protective momma to a whole new level.
I replaced Maryann’s single egg with two eggs. The second one never did hatch, and upon examination I noticed it had a crack in the end that was not self inflicted, the crack was caused by something other than the chick trying to hatch. What I think happened is that on one of her “potty-breaks” Maryann, or more likely Gilligan, accidentally kicked the egg and damaged it enough to cause the chick inside to quite or die.
I was afraid Maryann would starve to death, not wanting to get off her remaining egg, waiting for a hatch that would never come. So I removed the second egg and disposed of it in hopes that she would focus on teaching the new “little” to scratch and peck, which would also allow her to spend more time eating and making up for the last several weeks of minimal food and water.
Even if she continues to lounge in bed for a few extra days and not partake of the full feeder right across the brooder I know Dad is doing his part to help this chick start off right. That’s what I love about silkies. Those girls are the best little broodies and the roosters are attentive and helpful with the chicks, unlike some other breeds who might think the young chick was a snack instead of offspring to be reared.